There is a buzz of excitement at Siding Spring Observatory, with television crews from the BBC and ABC currently filming the popular “Stargazing Live” television show from the site.
The UK’s favourite physicist, Professor Brian Cox, and comedian, Dara O Briain, have been broadcasting live from Siding Spring Observatory during the past week for the BBC, while host, Julia Zemiro, will land in Coonabarabran next week for the ABC syndication.
Riding on the back of the Dark Sky Park Declaration, the Stargazing Live event will catapult the Warrumbungles, Siding Spring Observatory and the work of its researchers onto the international stage.
Senior operations officer at the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peter Verwayen, said the project got off the ground last year, following a visit from a location scout.
“They were considering filming Stargazing Live at another location, so we convinced them Siding Spring was a far better option,” Mr Verwayen said.
“Getting the new Lodge completed was a priority.
“It has played an extremely important role in not only securing this opportunity, but also in making life a little easier for all involved in this project.”
As well as drawing on experts from around Australia, local staff, including Mr Verwayen, will feature strongly in the back-to-back broadcasts.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience. Everyone up on the mountain is so excited, especially since the arrival of Brian and Dara,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong, it has been a huge inconvenience for the observatory with loss of research time and interruptions to daily operations, but the benefits will far outweigh the inconveniences we face over the two weeks.
Please excuse the lights!
“We have been cringing and gritting our teeth at the spectacle of lights shining on the observatory buildings, but I think the end result will make it all worth while.”
At the mercy of the elements, it appears mother nature has not been advised of the filming schedule.
“We’ve had one-and- a-half reasonable nights since the crews arrived.
“We’ve been blaming the Brits for bringing their bad weather with them!”
At this stage, there will be no opportunity for local people to meet with the hosts, but online participation is encouraged.
“Filming is occurring throughout the night and everyone, including me, attempt to get as much sleep as they can during the day.
“However, people should keep their eyes open as you never know who might show up in town for a coffee or to buy a souvenir!”
Professor Brian Cox “on set” looking over the Warrumbungles while filming Stargazing Live at Siding Spring Observatory. Photo - Steve Chapman.